Chords for the Dead: Two men, one love, a ghost and always the music. (Rock & Roll Mysteries Book 1) - We Recommend - My Gay Toronto
Chords for the Dead: Two men, one love, a ghost and always the music. (Rock & Roll Mysteries Book 1) 25 February 2018.
by Drew Rowsome-
Just under five years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of making the acquaintance of author/activist Sarah Luddington. Her book Lancelot and the Wolf had caused a stir because of its gay content and, being an Arthurian fanatic and then working at fab magazine, I read the book and then contacted her for a story. Since then, Luddington has been busy: the Knights of Camelot series now numbers eight novels, and she has also written two vampire tales and an intriguing horror/mystery novel entitled Seelie. The Falcon Grey Series - Volume One which appears to have gay BDSM content.
So when I saw that Luddington had just released Chords for the Dead: Two men, one love, a ghost and always the music (Rock & Roll Mysteries Book 1) - mixing horror, gay sex/romance and rock n roll (all obsessions of mine) - it was on my tablet in seconds. And once I dove in, I remembered just how much I enjoyed Luddington's writing as she gripped me around the throat and balls as Chords for the Dead raced along.
The premise is simple if convoluted: Charlie, a recovering drug/alcohol addict and rock star on hiatus, had a passionate love affair with his bandmate Bastian whose betrayal, overdose and death put Charlie into a tailspin. Bastian reaches out from beyond the grave to ask for assistance in stopping a grisly series of ritualistic murders so that he can escape some sort of limbo. And he wants to rekindle the romance and take Charlie with him into the afterlife. A psychic witch, and impossibly handsome, policeman Dale is also investigating the murder/sacrifices and, of course, he falls hard for Charlie setting up a supernatural triangle putting all their immortal souls in danger.
Because this is the first in a projected series, Luddington has to create an entire world for the triangle to exist in, and the supernatural elements achieve a grounded reality because the world is plausible and the large cast of supporting characters are all well-rounded and intriguing in their own right - the exposition never interferes with the action. The horror/occult elements are creepy and gory if not as scary as many would like, but there is sufficient suspense in the plotting. And because the characters are so lovingly/lustfully written, we actually care what happens to them. I'm sure I'm not the only one who will find themselves identifying far too closely with poor Charlie.
Luddington gets the music and love/lust connection just right, with Bastian being summoned into mirrors by guitar strumming. She is also quite good at depicting gay sex with Charlie and Dale's lovemaking being tasteful but hot erotica with some realistic flourishes that are very evocative. And there is also another conflict introduced to add to the suspense: they are both tops and Dale is quite adamant about protecting his pucker from intrusion.
Will their love survive the coven out to sacrifice at least one of them in order to raise the dead? A third who is a horny non-corporeal? A sinister demon trying to gain entrance to our world and Charlie's psyche and posterior? Rats and graveyards? Betrayal by both a sinister lesbian and a jilted straight girl? Dale's bisexuality and Charlie's OCD and addictive personality? The tragic dilemma of two tops in heat?
As much as I appreciate the agony of being torn between two lovers, Charlie's wishy-washiness becomes repetitive (a symbol of his recovery?) and the erotic appeal of tacky tattoos eludes me despite Luddington's lascivious descriptions. There is a fair amount of romance novel tropes but in a gay context they are charming. Chords for the Dead begins with a brutal act of homophobic violence and all the characters deal with internalized, and externalized, homophobia so they have earned the opportunity to achieve ecstasy in each others' arms.
The climax ends with satisfactory ambiguity - Rock & Roll Mysteries Book 2 has to be set up so there is still evil afoot - but the real hook is that the topping issue is never resolved. I will definitely be reading the second book if only to savour the scene where Dale finally gives it up and ascends to supernatural bliss.
Luddington writes on her website - darkfiction.eu - that "I am an old romantic who thinks love makes the world go round. I write love stories, they are violent, action packed and often homoerotic but they are never dull, at least that's what people tell me." Add that she gets the appeal of rock n roll, and that describes Chords for the Dead quite aptly.